The benefits of gaining control of your free time
How did your last vacation work out? Did you return feeling refreshed, and ready to throw yourself back into work? Or did you feel like you needed another vacation to get over the one you just took?
And what about your weekends? Do you suffer from the Monday morning feeling? Do you dread going into work for another long week? Does every weekend feel like it’s a day short?
If you suffer from stress, apathy, or a lack of energy, it could be because you’re not making the most of your free time. You need to gain control of your free time so that you can benefit fully from it.
Why is your free time so important?
When you don’t have time off work, the effects can be dramatic. We all know this, and most of us know someone who had a burnout. Mental and physical exhaustion from work is an increasing problem. It can happen to all of us: whether you’re an executive, manager, entrepreneur, or an employee. It also hits stay-at-home-parents, students, unemployed individuals, and even kids! You could burn out too!
During the working day, taking breaks will help you achieve more. In the long run, extended time off work is the thing that really recharges your batteries. An hour of reading, or an evening of exercise. A day of hiking, or pampering at the spa. A weekend away with your partner, or a week (or two or three) of family vacation time.
The benefits of free time:
Unfortunately, many people feel guilty when they take time off. They view free time as a luxury. If only such people knew the benefits of free time. Here are just a few ways in which free time will help you:
1. You will feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and recharged
Your brain needs resting. More often than you can imagine. It’s not built to work 24/7. It needs variety and downtime to perform. Taking time to relax, and focusing on you instead of work or other worries, will give you more energy and more enthusiasm.
2. You will improve your physical and mental health
Taking time out to participate in hobbies and pastimes will improve your physical and mental health. Exercise helps to keep your body in shape, and can aid the immune system, as well as relieve stress. Several hobbies help to improve your ability to think and find solutions to problems. Many bring you into contact with other people, increasing your circle of friends.
3. It drastically reduces stress levels and prevents burnouts
Free time helps you to relax, and this in turn helps you to sleep. Better quality sleep, combined with physical and mental exercise away from work, will help you feel less stressed. You’ll be able to face challenges head on, in a more energetic and positive manner.
4. It brings you closer to family and friends and helps you meet new people
Yes, work is important, but what is life without family and friendships? Free time spent with your partner, or a night away with your best friends is a welcome break from your career – for you and those you spend time with.
5. You feel more satisfied with your life
Gaining control over your free time puts you back in control of your life. You’ll start working to live, and not living to work. People, hobbies, and interests will take on a new meaning in your life. You’ll have experiences to look forward to, and make more memories to look back on. Free time is for fun.
6. Your productivity will increase
When you take time off, you get to assess your personal and professional life. The big picture comes into sharp focus again, and you can review what is really important to you. When you’re in good physical and mental health, and you’ve recharged your batteries, your productivity will improve and your goals and dreams will be in reach in no-time.
The surprising truth about Free time: Quantity versus quality
OK, so you need free time. It’s got real benefits. So why is it that after a weekend off, or when you return from that one-week holiday, you don’t feel re-energised and renewed?
Guess what: most people do free time wrong! Say again? Yes, we do free time wrong! Can you believe that? Most people think that it is the quantity of free time that is important. I’ve got news for you. It’s not how much free time you have that’s important, it’s what you do with it that makes a difference to your life.
Let me say this again: quality of free time is more important for happiness than the quantity – and it’s been scientifically proven, too. Researcher Wei-Ching Wang and his team conducted two studies into free time and found that when you organise your free time, you improve the quality of your life. They also found that when you fail to manage your free time, having more free time doesn’t improve the quality of your life. In other words, to improve the quality of your life, you have to manage your free time effectively.
The key to quality free time? Schedule it!
By now, you should understand that quality of free time is the key to improving the quality of your life. The key to have quality free time is to schedule it, instead of doing what most people do – leave free time to chance. Many people deliberately resist organising their free time. They falsely believe that time management is an activity only for work.
Why do people manage their time at work? Because they know that it leads to higher quality of work, quicker achievements, more control, and less time wasted. So, why do so few people do the same with their free time? Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, suggests that we should more rigorously schedule our weekends instead of leaving Saturday wide open and figuring it out once we wake up.
Five reasons to start scheduling your free time today
Here are five good reasons to start scheduling your free time, starting today:
1. You’ll have more fun!
We only live once, so we should get most out of it. Your free time is the moment to have lots of fun. When you plan your free time ahead you will be able to do more of the fun things. Also, it gives you something to look forward to. Schedule activities, meet up with friends and family, engage in self-development activities, do whatever you think is fun, plan it ahead of time and it’s guaranteed that you have more fun than you ever had before.
2. You will waste less time
No need to waste time anymore on Saturday morning thinking about all those things you could or should do, and then discussing and deciding what you’re actually going to do. That’s a time-save in itself, and a whole lot less stress.
When we’re bored, we often turn on our screens and waste time surfing the net or scrolling through social media accounts. Planning your free time eliminates wasted time. If you decide what you want to do beforehand, you will find that you have more free time than you think, and you can fit in more things you could ever imagine possible.
3. You will do what you really want to do
Scheduling free time commits your free time. You’ll find that:
- Things that are planned are more likely to be done
- Work is less likely to creep into your free time
- Planned free time is less likely to be filled with ‘busy tasks’ that don’t really interest you
- If it’s scheduled, it becomes more difficult to say you’re ‘too tired’ (or some other nonsense reason) to engage in an activity.
If you don’t schedule your free time, it will quickly be filled with activities or tasks that you actually don’t really want to spend your time on.
4.You will achieve more of your personal goals and dreams
Life isn’t simply to achieve professional goals. Your personal goals matter too. If you take the time to plan your free time, you can fit in more activities that are really important to you. Playtime with your kids, dinners with your best friends, sports, spending time with your partner, helping out a neighbour, learning a new hobby. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you plan it you will achieve it (faster).
5. You gain control over your life
Take control of your life. Scheduling free time forces you to consider what’s important to you and ensures you spend free time wisely.
So, you need to plan your free time. What’s next?
Scheduling your free time will improve your life drastically. In a future post, I’ll give you some insights on how to do this in your busy life. I would do that now, but I have some free time scheduled! :)
"An exploration of the Relationship between Free Time Management and the Quality of Life of Wage Earner in Taiwan", Wei-Ching Wang and Chin-Hsung Kao, 2011
"Free Time Management Makes Better Retirement: A Case Study of Retirees’ Quality of Life in Taiwan", Wei-Ching Wang, Chang-Yang Wu and Chung-Chi Wu, 2014